Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Making Of The (LSA) Bahamas

How one professional LSA pilot found a way to make flying to the islands a breeze

But first, it was time for a shakedown cruise. That September, Zidziunas and a friend lifted off in two Breezers from Fort Lauderdale and headed southeast to Nassau, then on to Staniel Cay and Great Exhuma. "We were there four days and had absolutely no problems of any kind," he says.

After landing in Nassau, they ordered a fill-up of the Breezer's wing tanks. When the spout overflowed after just 10 gallons were pumped, the line guy looked at Zidziunas in astonishment and asked, "Where's the rest of the gas go?"

"He'd never seen anything like it before," says Zidziunas. "GA airplanes burn a lot more fuel, and he couldn't believe we'd gotten there on only 10 gallons! The guys in the tower in Nassau and Grand Bahamas asked a bunch of questions about the Breezers and LSA, in general. Everywhere we went, people were really curious. They had heard about LSA, but nobody had ever seen one there."

The trip was a huge success, so Mike Z planned the first official Bahamas LSA flyout for December 10, which would be hosted by Bahamas Tourism.
I was so thrilled, I was jumping around like a madman!" he remembers. "For me, it legitimized LSA. It made
the Bahamas the first country to recognize the
U.S. sport-pilot license...
"We had 17 LSA owners sign up! We took that group to Grand Bahama for the whole time, but I set it up for Jacob Peed, Dan Johnson and his wife Randee to fly on with me from there to Staniel Cay," Mike Z remembers. "After that trip, Dan saw the full significance of what we could do—fly from island to island, legitimately, as 'real' airplanes."

For Mike Z, it not only made his dream of flying LSA among the islands he loved a reality, but added a huge boost of lifestyle appeal to the image of light-sport flying. Here was this entirely different, exotic place just a short distance by air from the Florida coast (50 nm at the shortest crossing: half an hour or less over water), where LSA pilots could get away from it all, fly in the more relaxed airspace of an entirely different country, and enjoy the rich and diverse cultures of the Bahamas.

"Every island has something unique and fascinating to offer," says Zidziunas. "There are so many amazing stories down there. It's really a great place to have a lot of fun flying from island to island. It's relatively simple, too. You just do the paperwork in advance, jump in the plane and go.

"I see it as the epitome of what LSA can be, not just another transportation airplane, but more like owning a flying motorcycle or sailboat—the Harley Davidson experience, where the journey is an important part of the lifestyle," Mike Z says. "It gets you out into a new world. It's a lot more than just the destination."

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